Since Blaise was born over six months ago, music has taken a bit of a backseat in my life. The time to reflect and write new songs--limited even prior to this amazing event--has dwindled to next to nothing. In addition, having left my full-time music gig at Holy Trinity Church here in Kansas, my chances to play--either at a coffee shop or leading worship somewhere--are twice-monthly events...hardly enough for the musician in me. Yet, truthfully, I have no regrets. I wouldn't trade my son, wife, and my life in school for anything--especially not for a some new songs and some QT with my guitar.
This said, music runs through the center of who I am as a person. Thirteen years ago, I went to my first ever major concert--watching Jars of Clay's "Much Afraid" tour of 1997. I can still remember sitting on the second level of the basketball arena at a local New Orleans university (the New Orleans Hornets didn't exist then) and singing along to Worlds Apart as they finished the show. I still remember feeling amazed and overwhelmed by my first experience with one of the greatest tangible metaphors for the grandeur and glory of God. I have experienced now, many loud and amazing concerts--indeed I have directed the sound and led the music at many as well--and yet the glorious metaphor often slips away even at those moments. I am reminded of the villages along the foothills of the Alps and the people who experience such natural beauty every day--even they search for something more after a while.
The journey to God is quite different than the elation of this mountaintop experience. The journey to God--the journey to the very center of myself--to Love Divine--is very reason I got married to my amazing wife Kristen, decided to have a child, and left my music job to go back to school. At some point the top of the mountain is simply another geographical location on the map--even the highest mountain or the furthest reaches of space cannot sustain wonder forever. Love, on the other hand--that Divine experience of reality made tangible through a spouse, a child, a friend, a neighbor--Love can indeed sustain us forever. Unlike the mountaintop, Love is ever new, ever shifting, ever challenging, ever pursuing our hearts, minds, and souls. Love challenges me to take care of Blaise in the midst of a ridiculously crazy day with very short naps and very little peace. Love challenges me to be patient in the present and let life approach at the speed it desires. Love asks that I consciously walk past my guitar each day, having faith in the future, in my family, in the Divine compassion and love that calls me awake each morning and helps me to sleep each night.
So here we are. In my daily experience, the ephemeral nature of love is not something I think about when I change Blaise's diaper or run to the store. Indeed, it is often quite hard to think of God amidst the struggles, frustrations, and disappointments of daily life. Which prayers get answered? Which prayers will not? How do I pray for our child attempting and marvelously to adjust to my wife going back to school? It is often the practical thoughts that get me through--analyzing what has worked before, what he might need, what might work in the future. Because of this, I am often tempted to pray--and do--only when times are most difficult, when Kristen and I reach our limits of patience and sleeplessness. But this is not the God that I follow--or at least not all of the God I follow. My God is the God of love of neighbor, of compassion, of real choices and real service to others, of patience and difficulty, of defeat and sacrifice. What was once a yearning for mountaintops to get me through the next year has slowly become a realization of the holiness and grace bequeathed upon us by constantly searching for the love amidst every moment of each day.
I recently finished "The Mismeasure of Man" by the celebrated atheist, Stephen Jay Gould. The book is an interesting and compelling walk through the attempts over the last few centuries to measure people's intelligence and how nearly every temp was riddled with unconscious or conscious bigotry of its day--and often bad science as well. At the end of the book, however, Gould mentions his overarching purpose in describing a woman who was sterilized--without her knowledge--in the mid 20th century because she was apparently deemed unfit for procreation by a team of psychologists and other scientists. He makes the point that all science--no matter how theoretical or impersonal--has very real and direct implications into people's lives, and that no scientist should live and work without the knowledge of this woman and her very real grief upon discovering this fact many years later. He finishes by quoting Jesus (from Mark 2.27) who, after his apostles gathered some food, defended their actions by saying that "the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath."
We live in a time where atheists are often more Christian than Christians themselves, a fact that is both quite inspiring and quite depressing. Let us then claim the sabbath, as Gould (and Christ) reminds us, for each person by gathering food, caring for our family, listening to concerns, directing music, healing the sick, clothing the naked, loving our children, casting our vote--that is, by allowing Love to work through us for the benefit of all others in this hectic and stressful world.
The world will not be sanctified by random acts of kindness--nor is doing random acts of kindness a form of Christianity but a selfish way of life free from responsibility and purpose--but by allowing the very essence of Love Divine to flourish throughout our lives in every choice, every thought, every action in every day.